CenterCourt: Are Lob City's Days Numbered?
The Los Angeles Clippers have become the Dallas Cowboys of basketball. Of course the Cowboys to this point have flipped the script as they sit 11-2, that hasn’t been the case in their recent history.
What other team seems to falter under pressure? Choke or fail to show up in the big games, seemingly every year is considered a title contender, but just never seem to get over that hump? It’s the Clippers, a team with Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and JJ Reddick in the starting lineup. A bench full of players capable of production like Jamal Crawford. A head coach respected and viewed by many as one of the greats, Doc Rivers. They give us glimpses of what could be, but it’s never in long stretches or times, when it’s needed most.
For the Clippers, time is no longer on their side after four straight 50 plus win seasons, they’ve yet to make it out of the second round. In 2014-2015 they had their best chance to change this, but they managed to lose a 3-1 lead to the Houston Rockets. Currently, they sit at 17-7 tied for the 3rd seed with the Houston Rockets.
One of the things that I’ve always felt is important for teams that are considered contenders, is winning the games you’re supposed to. The Clippers have struggled in that department, with losses against teams like the Indiana Pacers and Brooklyn Nets. Now of course loses to lower end teams aren’t unheard of or a huge deal, they happen.
Yet, it’s concerning when you see those loses, and then you see how the Clippers looked against the heavyweights of the West. Like their 17-point loss to the Golden State Warriors, where the Clippers just looked outmatched. Which raises the question. What happens if this team fails to make a deep playoff run again?
The Clippers very well may lose their two franchise players in the blink of an eye. At the end of season both Blake Griffin and Chris Paul, have player options. There’s really no question that both Griffin and Paul will opt-out of their current contracts to sign max contracts as the cap is set to rise again this year.
Where they sign isn’t so clear.
Chris Paul who will be 32 next offseason, will likely be signing his last big contract of his career. Now I find it hard to believe that a guy like Paul, the competitor he is, stays in LA if this season ends in another letdown. He’ll look for a change, it’s only natural. There’s three places in particular that I believe will be strong suitors for Paul.
Those three teams being the New York Knicks, Chicago Bulls and San Antonio Spurs, what all three of these teams have in common is uncertainty at the point guard position. The Knicks and Bulls each have a good friend of CP3 on their rosters in Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony. It’s not out of the question to think he may want to team up with one of his fellow, superstar friends to make one last run at things. For Knick fans, who would you rather run your offense? If your answer is Derrick Rose, just think about a Pick and Roll involving Paul and Kristaps Porzingis. It’s mouthwatering to even picture.
Rose has been solid to this point and has earned the right to be considered for a max deal come season end. If I’m the Knicks though, I don’t put my future on the back of Rose. Who knows if those legs can carry the weight.
Now if Chris Paul truly wants a ring. His destination is down in San Antonio alongside Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge. That’s surely the place to go ring chasing, Tony Parker is up there in age and his body hasn’t been holding up very well. Patty Mills is very good off the bench, but he’s no prime Tony Parker or a 32-year-old Paul.
Blake Griffin unlike Chris Paul is more likely to re-sign with the Clippers. However, if Paul walks why stay? That’s why when looking at the landscape of the NBA, two teams who could snag Griffin are the Boston Celtics and Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Boston Celtics for me is more likely, they’ve been in rumors for just about every star player on the market or soon to be on the market. Danny Ainge wants a star on this roster, a star who can score primarily. The Celtics have the assets in Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder to make a trade if they chose to go that route. If he decides to keep this current Celtics core and Griffin does walk, he could become the next big star in green and white.
We won’t know for several months what will actually or possibly happen, just know. If the Clippers don’t get it done again, Lob City is set for reconstruction.